Top Hat

Updates on student life, counseling

By Meagan Lettko November 6, 2019

As the Grand Marshal, a big part of my job is meeting with people and having conversations about the current state of our campus community. This is also true for the President of the Union. Caitlin, our PU, and I meet with various individuals and groups every week. We talk with students, directors, deans, vice presidents, trustees, and even our president.

Caitlin and I are working to build authentic and intentional relationships with administrators and alumni that support the success of current and future students. It takes time and effort in order to build trust. By participating in these relationships, we are allowed the opportunity to communicate our view, as students, on current changes and initiatives within the realm of student life. I think by sharing some updates on student life, I may shed some light on the fact that the entire Rensselaer community is working very hard to transform our institution for years to come.

Change is uncomfortable, frustrating, and hard. We usually have more unknowns than equations. But change is also exhilarating, rewarding, and necessary. If we stay the same it would be a disservice to everyone who came before us and to everyone who will come after us. The following information illustrates how the Student Government is participating in larger conversations surrounding changes in student life, student health, and counseling. By partnering to address student concerns we are helping to enhance the student experience for years to come.

As always, please feel free to email me at with any questions or comments.

Arch Update

To date, over 450 students have embarked on a fall Arch away opportunity in the following areas:

  • 47 percent are pursuing a co-op or internship (domestic and abroad).
  • 8 percent are conducting research with a faculty mentor or at a national lab.
  • 3 percent are engaged in international study.
  • 4 percent are taking courses at another U.S. institution.
  • 2 percent are donating their time toward civic engagement at the local, state, or federal level or will serve at a nonprofit or non-governmental organization.
  • 36 percent have designed an Individual Learning Experience, including some incredibly creative opportunities at home and around the globe.

Greek Life Update

Implementation of Greek Life Task Force suggestions is underway. This initiative is carried out by three key groups. The Executive Sponsorship Group gives direction regarding the recommendations presented in the Greek Life Task Force Report. The steering committee then supports the implementation of these recommendations and makes sure that progress is being made. Four project teams made up of students, faculty, and administrators are responsible for carrying out the timeline determined by the steering committee. Currently, project teams are meeting and a timeline has been set for the recommendations—many of which will be implemented this academic year.

Student Health Center and Counseling Center Update

During the full implementation of the Arch, the Student Health Center and Counseling Center were available to students for use throughout the summer. During the Arch, many students experienced stress from the demanding course load and the condensed schedule. The Counseling Center saw an average of 28 visits per week. 8 percent of students used the Counseling Center during the summer whereas 13 percent of students used the Counseling Center during the fall and spring terms. This percentage difference may be attributed to students seeking counseling off-campus or coping with stress in different ways. In order to reduce stress during the Arch, six-week courses have been eliminated. Moving forward, courses will be taught in 12 weeks to give students the necessary time to learn, process, and practice the information presented to them.

The Counseling Center had moved from the Harvard Model (sit on a couch and tell your life’s story, then talk about your problems) to a triage system. The triage system starts with 30-minute sessions to identify what is currently causing stress in a student’s life. This system allows for more appointment availability and it addresses the most pressing issue first. This method is being carried out by a full staff of counselors. The Counseling Center is still working to identify a psychiatrist. In the meantime, there are staff members in the Counseling Center that can ensure students have the prescribed medication they need.

This semester, the Counseling Center is offering drop-in counseling at multiple locations across campus every week. These sessions include:

  • East Campus Athletic Village, Room 2634: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30–4:30 pm
  • Union Room 3418: Mondays from 2:30–4:30 pm
  • Mueller Center upstairs classroom: Wednesdays from 2:30–4:30 pm

Every week the Counseling Center offers 33 appointment slots for first-time users. The Counseling Center also reserves appointments Monday morning for weekend crises. Appointments can be scheduled by using the health portal.

Administrative Student Life Initiatives

By talking with Vice President of Student Life Konwerski, I have learned the initiatives of the administrative Division of Student Life. The student life team of administrators and staff recognize that CLASS is essential to the student experience at RPI. However, for students, CLASS may appear to be just an acronym. The administration recognizes when clustered learning, advocacy, and support for students is happening within their initiatives and works to actively define when something falls under CLASS so that students can identify with this model of support. For example, support for the Arch program falls under the CLASS model. Administrators are working hard to identify where support is needed and how students can be clustered to gain as many benefits as possible from an Arch experience. Based on the first full implementation of the Arch, we have learned how to improve to make the next year's Arch cycle as successful as possible.

This administrative team is also working to advance diversity and inclusion throughout our campus. By consciously practicing inclusivity, and training their staff to recognize how we are successful in this initiative and where we need to do better, they are helping us to recognize the strengths of our diverse campus community. All of these efforts support the goals of the Rensselaer Plan 2024 and the transformative campaign for the campus community.